To the Editor:
Houston County zoning administrator Aaron Lacher is now targeting rock quarries. At the 10/22/2019 commissioner’s meeting, Lacher told the board that he needed to get the “correct resolution” on the Schutz quarry so he can go after and shut down the other grandfathered-in rock quarries. Commissioner Bob Burns was on board stating, “we want it shut down.”
Lacher wants to win so bad, he convinced the commissioners (except for Eric Johnson) to hire a Minneapolis attorney to represent him at the Schutz quarry re-hearing. And who pays for his attorney? We the taxpayers.
The county approved the Schutz quarry as “open and usable” in 2008. It has been registered with the county as a grandfathered-in (nonconforming) mine since the 1970s and has been taxed as a rock quarry. A 2015 zoning investigation even confirmed the Schutz quarry had retained its status as a grandfathered-in quarry, a decision county attorney Sam Jandt signed-off on.
Now Lacher and Jandt are reversing their prior decisions. Why?
How can anyone rely on prior decisions in this county? And don’t buy the “they can just apply for a conditional use permit” argument pushed by some commissioners, it’s not that simple. With the new ordinance requirements, many of these quarries will not be granted a permit.
Since Lacher took over zoning, there has been constant litigation from his decisions that he gets the board to rubber stamp. On top of the costly litigation, Lacher’s salary went up from $55,000 when he started in 2015, with no prior zoning experience, to $85,000 in just four years! It took Rick Frank over 40 years to make that sum.
Things are going to keep getting worse, too. Just take a look at the online survey Lacher wants to use to guide the comprehensive land use plan. The questions are skewed against farming and mining, in favor of recreational uses.
Rather than work with citizens, Lacher and the county’s lawyers want to make new case law in order to go after and shut down the very quarries that have saved us taxpayers money. If this doesn’t stop, expect more litigation, more quarry closures, higher prices for materials, and higher taxes to pay for it all.
I guess it pays to work for Houston County, but not to do business in Houston County.